On the Feast of the Iveron Icon of the Mother of God. 18.04.2023


In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit!

We love many things in our life. There is much love in our life. However, these are different kinds of love. Surely, first of all, we love ourselves. This is the bitter truth about ourselves. Almost everything that we love comes through this first love for ourselves. It is very sad that we love everything in reference to ourselves. This is MY family, these are MY children, these are MY friends, this is MY Motherland, and these are MY habits. This concerns even our saints and virtuous habits. This is MY prayer rule; this is why please do not violate it.     

In relation to this profound illness of ours, all our kinds of “love” come through this first point of rottenness. Everything comes through ME. Everything that I love. I love this. This is why we cannot enjoy perfect love, which can only be unconditional.  There cannot be any self-interest or avarice in a perfect love. Love is the sweetest feeling in the world. Even in the format of “I love, he loves” we experience sweet and very touching moments and impressions. We are even ready to die for this. Can you imagine what would have happened to us if we experienced absolutely unconditional love? The Love, which, as per Saint Paul the Apostle, does not seek its own, but burns itself and looks only in the direction of the beloved instead. This love forgets about itself and the whole world. People who fall in this love forget if they have eaten today or not, rested or not. They become captives of this madness of love. This is a big responsibility, but this is a big joy too, a great experience of unconditional love.    

Our “I” dissolves all our kinds of “love,” that we experience in this world. Nevertheless, there is a kind of love on earth, which we may experience selflessly.   When we come to the Mother of God, surely, at first when we begin to go to church, we come up to Her with the words “give me,” as we perceive Her as the One Who can be asked.  But if we build our spiritual life correctly and it becomes a true spiritual life, this true spiritual life kills our ego, our “I,” and suddenly selflessness grows up in us. In the beginning, we come to the Theotokos and simply say “give me,” but at a certain moment our spiritual eyes open, we come to see ourselves, and there comes the time when we say, “O Most Holy Theotokos, forgive me.” This period is a very good spiritual period, and may God let everyone come through it. All these selfish words: “give,” “help,” “console,” “make it work” are forgotten during this period. This period is only the beginning of repentance and spiritual life starts from this point. The period of “give me” is not a spiritual life at all. This is the foundation stone a person shoves off from to jump in the direction of the Kingdom of Heaven.  The stone of repentance. Only at this moment does spiritual life begin and from this moment, a person begins to feel the taste of spiritual life a little. He or she stops saying, “give” and says, “forgive.” The time of repentance begins. If this time of repentance passes sincerely, stably, and well, the person gives another fruit. When he even stops saying “forgive” and only sheds the tears of tenderness, he simply says, “O Most Holy, O Most Holy, O Most Holy.” Then, at a certain moment, he does not say anything, but simply cries before Her.    

I am telling you about this as about a perfection attained by all the Holy Fathers. They pushed off the foundation stone of repentance and, having entered the Kingdom of Heaven, they… Do you remember the words said during the Holy Week? “Let all mortal flesh keep silent.” At first, it keeps silent in the Mystery of Repentance, then it keeps silent in the Mystery of Reverence. It happens when a person does not perceive an icon, nor the words of a troparion or an akathist addressed to the Mother of God, but when he perceives Her in every icon and word dedicated to the Theotokos. She exists everywhere for him, as well as Her Divine Son. 

O Most Holy Theotokos, O Most Holy Theotokos, save us! 

Someone rejoices there. Some baby rejoices.  

Fathers, I congratulate you on the Holy Pascha. I wish you to pass these paschal days not in a simple earthly merriment.  I wish you to preserve something that you acquired during Great Lent. Some of you might have come closer to prayer, attention, and inner silence. Let us preserve all this during the holy days of Pascha. Let us serve, pray and fulfill our prayer rule. Let us remember about God and not only about laid tables and guests.   

Glory to our God! Glory to our Most Holy Theotokos, our Heavenly Mother! Glory to all of you as the image of God! 

Christ is Risen!



Sermon for Holy Saturday 15.04.2023


This service is the most difficult one throughout Great Lent. It is the last and longest one. The previous day, on Friday, we did not eat or drink anything; this is why we were exhausted. During this service, we acquire two precious pieces of knowledge. The first very essential knowledge is the knowledge about ourselves, how weak we are, how infirm our will is, and even that we have no will at all. None of it. It keeps constantly complaining, weeping, crying and reproaching, “When will all this end?” Even before Christ was born, pagan philosophers realized the value of this precious knowledge about oneself. They understood it very well and said, “Know yourself and through this knowledge you will learn another truth, which is deeper.”  

During such difficult times and during such difficult services, we learn how weak we are. This is precious. This is the foundation of our Christianity. 

The second piece of valuable knowledge, which we acquire during such services, is the knowledge of the great help of God strengthening us in Grace. When you are totally exhausted and it seems to you there is nothing ahead except for a nerve crisis and desperation, there suddenly comes… Do you remember how Elijah prayed? And the Lord came to Him not in a thunder or lightning, nor in something extraordinary, but He came to the Prophet as a light breeze. The Lord visited him very humbly and delicately. Glory to God, the Lord does not visit us with some fireworks, but sometimes a quiet reassurance comes as inspiration. The word “inspiration” has “spirit” as its root. This inspiration comes from the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit comes and strengthens us, and we remember this. We remember how we were exhausted and prone to desperation, but at this extreme point, God came, healed and balanced everything and it worked out very well for us. The more of such experience a person has, the stronger he or she becomes in faith, as there is the knowledge that this happened before and if we remain patient for a while, everything will end in a good way. 

Glory to our Loving, Sweet, Kind, Delicate, the Best, and the Greatest God together with the Father, and the Holy Spirit always, now and ever, and unto the ages of ages. Amen! 

I greatly appreciate your coming. Usually we have more people, but today’s cataclysms prevented some people from coming. We would have had more. 

Come on. I will award you with wine and bread.



Sermon on the Sunday of the Venerable Saint Mary of Egypt. 02.04.2023


We hear the following words in today’s Gospel: the Apostles James and John come up to the Lord and asked Him of the honor to be the first in the Kingdom of Heaven, so one sat on the Lord’s right and the other one on His left in the Kingdom of Heaven. They ask to do them the honor and prefer them to the other Apostles.   

If we come back a little, what will we see? Right before they came up to the Lord and asked Him to do them such a great honor, right before this, the Lord says, “I am going to be crucified.” What madness should be in your head, when someone tells you, “your beloved Teacher is going to be crucified,” and you come up to Him at this moment and ask, “May I be there, in the Kingdom of Heaven, higher than anyone?”!    

Pride on earth is the greatest madness. Pride and self-conceit make a madman of a person. Didn’t they love Him? They did love Him, sincerely, like little children. However, at the very moment when He told them, “They will crucify Me soon,” they come up and say such trivial and ignoble things. The ignobility of this is seen in contrast with what the Lord says, “I am going to death.” And they ask to do something from their pride, “May I be the first and he the second, or rather both of us will be the first.” 

The greatest madness on earth is pride. All the sins on earth, all wars begin with pride. All insults and disagreements, everything is mixed with pride. This is because pride does not simply make people angry, but it makes them mad. Such mad people lose their mind and it seems to them they do righteous deeds. This was the way religious fanatics acted. They killed, burned and demolished the whole cities in a righteous rage, as it seemed to them, but they simply raved. Pride makes people crazy, while people become wise because of… There is a church word, which secular people do not use; they lost it because they lost God. This word, or rather, a combination of words is present only in church now, it is a “humility of mind.” The two words make one notion. Mind, or wisdom and humility. Humility makes a person wise.  

In the next Gospel today we read about the harlot, who spends precious myrrh pouring it on the Lord and wiping His feet with the hair of her head.1 Why does she do this? The master of the house who invited the Lord is there too. He invited the Lord because he respects and holds Him in reverence to an extent.  He partially saw His miracles, heard His teaching on earth, and this is why he invited the Lord to his house, laid the table and called other guests. However, he is sillier than the harlot, because the harlot has humility of mind. The harlot knows she is a harlot. She is very much ashamed of this, and her worthlessness burns her. This is why she does not come up to the Lord and does not say, “Take me to Your Kingdom and make me sit here or there.” She simply comes to Him. Do you remember? There is one more moment. The Lord says to a poor widow, “I came to feed Israel with spiritual food.” To which she says, “Yes, Lord, yet even the little dogs eat the crumbs which fall from their master’s table.”2 This is how she defines herself and this is how she feels about herself.  And the Lord says, “You are not far from the Kingdom of Heaven.” This woman and the harlot, they understand who they are. But this state burns them and does not give them much peace. They could have run far away and hid from the sight of the Lord, like stupid Eve and Adam did. They sinned in Paradise, but the Lord came out to meet them. Didn’t He know what they had done? Surely, He knew. He says, “Adam and Eve, where are you?” But they hide. They hide because their shame is not wise. A wise shame makes people run, fall on their knees and ask for forgiveness. While their shame has already been dissolved by pride.  Pride does not allow them to show themselves before their Heavenly Father in a sleazy appearance.  Meanwhile, the harlot has a wise shame. Realizing all the depth of her worthlessness, she overcomes her shame, goes, falls on her knees, and wipes the Lord’s feet with her hair. She supposes that the master of the house will say, “Don’t You know who is approaching You?” The master considers himself righteous and thus behaves like a madman. And this harlot and nullity is being wise. Because she has humility of mind. 

This week we commemorate the great saint, Mary of Egypt. Who came up from the greatest worthlessness, almost from hell, if someone remembers the story of her life. She even was, I beg your pardon, even among harlots there are more or less restrained or temperate people, but she was one of the filthiest. She was as rotten as no one gets. She even came on board a ship that brought pilgrims to holy sites. Then she acknowledged during her confession to Zosimas, “I boarded that ship in order to corrupt those people who traveled to the holy land.” Do you imagine how low a person can fall? She boarded the ship to fornicate with the people who went to venerate the holy sites. And after such a depth of worthlessness she becomes a great saint. 

There is a notion. When a person drowns and has neither strength nor a way to get out, he or she has only one means left – having touched the bottom, kick off it. The water does not hold you, you are sinking deeper and deeper, paddling and clambering, but water is an unstable substance, and you cannot hold on to it. There is only one way – when you get to the bottom, shove off it with a jerk and go up. Perhaps, this is how it worked with Saint Mary of Egypt. 

The greatest madness is to read about Saint Mary of Egypt and say to ourselves, “Glory to You, O Lord, I am not like her.” Why aren’t you? You just did not have an opportunity and had other circumstances. You are the same. Yes, the same. Your case was different. But all of us have predispositions.  A great fornicator lives in every one of us. A killer lives in every one of us. And a traitor lives in every one of us. You know, I have been serving in prisons for 25 years and once I said during a sermon at a prison, “Guys, you are all traitors, or rather, we are all traitors.” And suddenly they felt uncomfortable, “How come we are traitors?” “What is Motherland for you then? Is it something abstract and shapeless? Or is it something definite? Is your own mom the Motherland? Yes, it is. How much grief has she had and tears shed because of you? If she is still alive and did not die of a heart attack. What about your father? And your poor wife, to whom you lied saying, ‘I love you. I will hold you in reverence.’ How much evil did you cause her? Your children are fatherless having a living father.’ I am a witness, I visited orphanages where consciously children tell lies, ‘My father is on a business trip. He will be back soon.’ Isn’t this a Motherland? This is the Motherland. Your wife is the Motherland. Your mother is the Motherland. Your children are Motherland. How much good could you do for your Motherland if you were a decent worker? But now your Motherland feeds you at this prison, guards you and pays salary to the staff. Isn’t this your Motherland? It is, if you look at it closely.”   Do you think only they are like this? Every one of us is. Everyone. 

The Apostle says, “Do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation.”3 And I may continue, “Do not be drunk with wine, in which is fornication, murder and what not.” One more story from prison. A seventy-year-old man cries like a little child. He drank vodka with his own son. He says, “I was drunk and switched off. When I woke up, my son was lying stabbed. I do not remember how I stabbed him.” And he cried, shedding big tears. “I killed Sashka.” If he were sober, nothing would have happened. But the main thing is that we are not drunk with vodka, we are drunk with madness.  There is a mess in our heads. We do not see simple things in our life. We discuss some high things, or how a country should be governed, or something else… At such moments, I simply want to say, “What country management are you talking about? Go and wash your dishes. Where do you know how to govern or how to improve the economy? Go wash your dishes and iron your trousers.” There we have drunkenness, in our heads. Why do we have it there? I gave you an example. Pride deprives us of our mind. Humility of mind gives us reason. 

Let us acknowledge once and for all, we are mad people, we are fornicators, we are murderers, and we are traitors of our Motherland. And then, for our humility, the Lord might give us reason. Wisdom is God. We are silliness. 

Why do we go to church? To have our silliness enlightened by the Wisdom of God. You do not go to church, live as you wish then.  This will be this way. You will live by inertia, die, and people will forget you. Your close relatives die, and there will be no one to renovate your tomb cross. This is the point of life. It consists of stealing everything by death. The cross will fall and become rotten. That’s it. Amen. The end of meaning. The meaning is only in God. Glory to God, Saint Mary of Egypt became humble of mind and now she has been venerated for so many years.    The whole Sunday of Great Lent is dedicated to her. We served the Standing of Saint Mary of Egypt on Thursday. Who deserves such an honor? A former harlot, who is a great Saint now. 

Glory to our God, always, now, and ever, and unto the ages of ages! Amen!

1 Lk. 7:44

2 Mt. 15:27

3 Eph. 5:18



Sermon for the Sunday of Saint John of the Ladder. 26.03.2023


In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit!

Today’s fourth Sunday of Great Lent is dedicated to commemoration of the Venerable John of the Ladder, who told us about the way to the Kingdom of Heaven. He made an allegory with the ladder by which people climb gradually, from one step to another, and to another. This notion of a gradual ascent is very important for us, Christians. A person climbs up the first step, then up the second and the third ones. All this happens very gradually and requires effort. 

We suppose that every step is standard. You step on the first one and then run up. However, the steps to the Kingdom of Heaven are sometimes very high. It happens that even one step requires not one easy step, but literally makes one clamber for it. We know this. Every step, not only one step, every step requires reaching out for, clambering, and applying much effort. 

It may seem, if people have a sincere desire and an earnest disposition, why would God not help them? Just take them by the hand and fly up to the top of this ladder at once? The Lord our Heavenly Father Who loves us very much consciously makes our ascend to the Kingdom of Heaven through this ladder of gradualness and hard, very hard work. If people are given a fast ascend to the Kingdom of Heaven, they will have no experience. There is a phrase said by one of the Holy Fathers, “He is saintly, yet not artful.” Sainthood was given to him through the mercy of God as a present, and he entered this state very easily and naturally. But he has not taken the course of the art of struggle, this is why he is saintly, but not artful. 

In the ancient Patericon, disciples asked their Elder, “Father, this one has made a long way, gained experience and fell. And this one, who is new in the faith, fell too. Who will have it easier to recover?” The Elder answered, “The one who is experienced. He knows how to do it. Even if he fell, he has an experience of struggle and overcoming, in addition, he has a tempered will.” When two fighters fight, who will win? We usually say at once without thinking, “A skillful one.” Moreover, in order to win the combat, one should not only have skill, but, as fighters say, functionality. One should have long patience and strength, some reserve. This is because a skillful, but not functional person might burn out fast. He will start the combat very beautifully and victoriously, but then he will put his hands down, as he had no functional training. This is why firstly we need to study the art, the art, which gives us experience. Secondly, we need functionality, training and tempering of our organism.   

The same concerns spiritual struggle. Everyone needs tempering. Those who did not undergo long, and extremely exhaustive training, are not tempered. Even if someone gives them the art, they will not endure long and break soon.  

The Ladder of Saint John of the Ladder is the image of our ascend to the Kingdom of Heaven. This is a gradual, long and hard work. One more detail is important. If a person climbs up a step in one jerk and one inspiration and his knowledge about himself as a worthless and fallen creature goes behind, this success will drive him crazy and he will repeat the way of the satan, who was a bright Angel standing by the throne of God, admired himself and fell into the very depth of hell.  

Why do we need gradualness? Because our growth in the Spirit should be gradual. This gradualness hides self-opinion from a person. He or she enters step by step and it seems natural to them. I used to be the same yesterday and I remain the same today. They do not see they have climbed really high already. Gradualness closes the vision of oneself as something worthless. If one sees it, this is the beginning of a fall.  

Today’s Gospel was not accidental. Do you remember, we read about how the Lord healed a demon-possessed young man? The father of the demon-possessed young man says, “Your disciples could not cure him”1 It is related to Saint John of the Ladder. Once he was asked a question. You see, this was the IV century, not the XXI century, when we are so far from God. Can you imagine, he was asked, “Why did the Lord say in the Holy Gospel, ‘In My name they will cast out demons; they will speak with new tongues; if they drink anything deadly, it will by no means hurt them;2 and they will move the mountains.’3 Why don’t we see all this in Christians? Why don’t we see this at all?” To which Saint John of the Ladder answered without confusion (he was not confused because he knew what was the essence of his answer), he said very shortly, “Where do you see the venerables now?” In order to move mountains, one should be a venerable.  

I will develop the thought of Saint John, “Who are the venerables then?” Are they wonderful people who attained something through their hard work and asceticism? By themselves? Not at all! Not by themselves, but those who, through the tears of repentance, called inside of them the Grace of God, Christ Himself. Why “through the tears of repentance?” Who calls Christ? Those who perish and feel their fall and destruction keenly, begin to call very sincerely and with tears, “Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, Jesus,” and confine Him inside of them. Only those who think nothing about themselves may yield the place to Christ. Those who have not come to this yet, will always try to do everything themselves. I will find salvation myself, I will pray myself, I will mobilize myself, I will fast now, and fulfill the commandments. Unless you stop doing everything yourself, forgive me, you will be a clown and a worthless person.  

Those who passed through the point of their nothingness and worthlessness, say, “I cannot do this on my own. Come, O Lord, I will yield You my heart, I will give this steering wheel to you. Please, drive for me. I cannot. I always bump into something and crash. I injure others and destroy myself. Come and dwell in us.” 

The essence of being venerable is not in a self-perfection in some spiritual feats or in opening spiritual talents in oneself. Esoterics, fanciers and mad people can do this. Christians act the other way. Christians come up to a certain point and say, “I am nothing, a zero. Perhaps, even a minus. My Christ, You do everything, as I cannot do nothing.”  The nature of being a venerable person is in the presence of God inside of you. Then He, being inside of people, moves mountains, walks on water, drinks poison and nothing causes Him harm. If you, a madman, drink poison on your own, you will die at once. Miracle is a realm and a prerogative of God. Our part is humility, our humble understanding of what we are in truth. What are we? We are nothing. 

When the Lord created a human, He took some clay and blew the breath of life inside of it. Take away the breath, only clay will remain. Take away the Holy Spirit from him, and he will become an animal. The most horrible animal of all. Other animals have sharp claws and teeth, while a human also has intellect. This is why he wins and destroys. They enter the Red List first and then become totally extinct. Even those strongest sharp-toothed and clawed animals die, and this toothless and clawless human destroys them, because he has a horrible weapon, his mind, his intellect. If this weapon is not applied for the good, a human becomes a horrible animal. He will not only exterminate all the animals, but also destroy himself. He will surely invent an atomic bomb and blow the whole world, putting everything off on God in the end, “O Lord, You are so cruel, as You let wars be.” The Lord is hanging on the Cross at this time. You are being mad, gnaw at and destroy one another, and think this is the fault of God.  

Those who want to get into the Kingdom of Heaven quickly have chosen a wrong place to come. As the Holy Fathers say, the Kingdom of Heaven is taken by force4. “By force” is a very precise word. It presupposes a long, painful, extensive, and forbearing process.  If you do not agree, you may go quickly – to hell. It is either long and to heaven, or quickly and to hell. It is easy to go to hell quickly. The same as going to prison. You do mischief and that’s it. 

Lord, give us reason!

What is a Christian reason? It is our humility of mind. When the ability to reason is dissolved by and based on humility, it becomes humility of mind, a great mind. Without humility the mind, which is given to a human, becomes a horrible weapon and people go wild.   

Glory to our God, always, now, and unto the ages of ages! Amen! 

1 “So I brought him to Your disciples, but they could not cure him.” (Mt. 17:16)

2 “In My name they will cast out demons; they will speak with new tongues; they will take up serpents; and if they drink anything deadly, it will by no means hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.” (Mk. 16:17-18)

3 Mt.17:20

4 “The Kingdom of Heaven suffers violence, and the violent take it by force.” (Mt. 11:12)